31 January 2015, by gj
There are a mere 12 seed catalogs in our house at the moment, after sharing and recycling the ones we no longer need. Admittedly, some never even get opened. The reason is because we know the way these catalogs are set up.
Looking through a seed catalog should be fun, not work. And although I understand the psychology of wanting the buyer to look at every page, if we can’t easily find what we want, we simply go to a catalog where we will.
So see if you, as a gardener, agree that all catalogs would be better if they contained:
1. An easy to find index.
Yes, we know the first few and last few pages of any catalog are the hot spots for selling. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother putting in an index, or just as bad bury it somewhere in the middle. It is just one page, please add it.
There’s no need to make a photo album, but give your customers something to look at. If it is a conglomeration of this year’s new items, put page numbers on the pictures so we can go look. And for heaven’s sake, label what the picture is of, specifically.
3. Growing information.
This should go without saying. Not every gardener knows that peas can be planted when the weather is cool, but that most beans can’t. One of our favorite catalogs is almost a gardener’s how-to book, it gives such good info and tips.
4. Some order.
While most catalogs are set up by category and in alphabetical order, some look like a child assembled them. Don’t stick flowers in between squash and tomatoes. Maybe it’s a little obsessive, but it is unnerving to read these catalogs, so we don’t. Colored tabs at the top of the page are lovely, and make it easy to know where the veggies end and the herbs and flowers start.
5. Botanical names.
Not everyone uses them, it is true. But there are some of us that would like to know, for example, if one squash may cross pollinate another. It also helps clear any confusion if a plant is known by many common names.
6. A ‘seed only’ shipping option.
When a company charges higher shipping rates for the more you spend, it is a disincentive to purchase. How many gardeners have deleted an item from an order, just to save on shipping? On the other hand, when a company charges one set price no matter how many seed packets you buy, the psychology then is to buy as many as you can. For companies that sell more than just seeds, consider a set fee for orders of seeds only. Take it from a long time gardener, we’ll buy more.
7. Customer bonuses.
Some companies are smart in including a free pack of seeds in every order, that’s nice and usually we give those away. When you think about it, if we wanted it we would have ordered it, right?
It’s not like “Oh shoot! Thank heavens they sent us these lettuce seeds or we would be in big trouble trying to make a salad!”
How about letting us choose from, say, 4 or 5 packs of seeds? Or give a bonus to customers who have been buying from you for a long time. It’s always good to keep your customers happy.
8. The truth.
Please include a straight forward explanation about the differences between genetically engineered, hybrid, open-pollinated and heirloom seeds. You have the attention of one of the most important groups of people when it comes to this subject, please use it responsibly to help clear up the confusion.
So what say you, my fellow gardeners? What else would you like to see in a seed catalog?
Categories: All About Seeds
27 January 2015, by gj
Blogging has blessed us in that we have been connected to many wonderful gardeners like you, whether you subscribe to our emails, follow along on assorted social media, or we have e-met on a more personal level.
It has also linked us to people involved in the gardening and publication industries. One such connection is with Horticulture Magazine. We were fortunate to win a contest to get an article published in their magazine, and from that they invited us to contribute to their online blog. How cool is that? My hands were shaking so hard I pert near dropped the phone!
After a few years we took a bit of a break while we worked on our garden system, primarily on finding ways to lower the cost of production without sacrificing quality.
They had no problem welcoming us back, and we are happy to say they have even featured our last two articles on growing Flax and Sunchokes both for their beauty and their edible components on their main page!
So if you are in gardening withdrawal from the cold, or for my friends down under it’s the heat, check out these links to get a little more green in your life.
You can find a new post there and on the Gardening Blog every week.
Color us happy, blessed, and waiting for spring…
Oh, and choose any color you want; anything is better than this snow-white!
Categories: Gardening People, Places & Things, Keeping up with the Joneses
25 January 2015, by gj
You probably have heard terms like phytonutrients and antioxidants used when people are talking about nutrition, or maybe when they are trying to sell you a food product.
It is part of the same idea of eating a rainbow, in that by choosing a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables, you will get a more diverse assortment of phytonutrients, and therefore a healthier diet.
But is there a difference in these substances when they are the same vegetable, as is the case with the white, orange and green cauliflower shown above?
Actually, there is. The chemical process that makes these heads different colors also offers different phytonutrients. This is the case for all veggies, you can read about different colored carrots here.
Now when it comes down to it, eating orange cauliflower is still, overall nutrition wise, more like eating white cauliflower than it is like eating an orange carrot.
So why bother to grow a variety of different colors of the same veggie?
Eye candy; but in a good way.
It is a well known expression in food service that people eat first with their eyes. Who wouldn’t be much more interested in a cauliflower salad or a crudites plate that had 3 or 4 different colors of cauliflower?
Whether you feed kids or picky adults, consider color when you choose what to plant. Not only will they be more likely to eat it, they will get a better assortment of those phytonutrients.
May as well bump up that nutrition while you’re at it!
Check out our Veggie Comparison Tables here for more info.
Categories: FAQs, Gardening
24 January 2015, by gj
We have posted before about starting seeds indoors, but wanted to add some additional information.
1. Consider pre-germinating.
Some seeds, like tomatoes, eggplant and peppers can take a while to sprout unless they really have sufficient heat. Other seeds, such as beets and sunflowers, have tough seed coats. By pre-starting them before planting, you can save yourself some time and effort.
Simply place the seeds on some paper toweling or paper napkins. Fold the edges over and moisten. Place the paper in a clear plastic container with a lid, or in a Ziploc type bag. Keep in a warm place, checking daily to be sure the paper stays moist.
When you see the seeds have sprouted, just carefully plant them as you normally would have.
2. Or soak them in compost tea.
Just as you give your plants fertilizer when they are growing, giving them some at planting time can really make a difference in how well they do. We recommend Haven Brand Moo Poo Tea because we know it works, and especially because it comes from pasture raised cows that are not eating genetically modified and heavily pesticided corn.
For most seeds you can soak them anywhere from a few hours to overnight. This works best for larger seeds than tiny ones like carrots, which don’t like to be transplanted anyway.
3. Give them some air.
Many gardeners start seeds in lidded containers, whether recycled or purchased domed seed starting kits. These help create a moist environment that will help your seeds sprout. Unfortunately, mold likes the same conditions. Take the lids off or open your containers every so often. If you can, run a fan in the room to circulate the air. Be careful, as this can cause the pots to dry faster. Just water again if needed, and replace the lids, etc. This will help keep mold away and your seeds will be safer.
Read these posts to learn more about starting seeds:
When to Plant Seeds Indoors and Out
4 Problems with Starting Seeds
13 Items to Upcycle for Starting Seeds
Categories: All About Seeds, How to Grow
20 January 2015, by gj
So over the weekend Mandolin and I were out running a few errands; post office, grocery store, etc.
When we pulled in to the Home Depot parking lot, he said “I’ll just be a minute, really, I just need a piece of hardware. You can wait in the car if you want. I’ll leave the heater on.”
“No that’s okay, I think I’ll see if their garden center is open yet.”
“I don’t think it is, really,” he said. “In fact, I think I read in the paper this morning that they are closing it down. Yep, closing it down for good. Yep, that’s it. They are never, ever going to sell anything that is even remotely related to gardening here. Not ever again. Never. So, you may as well wait in the car.”
Now I admit I didn’t really need the two planters pictured above, though they will certainly be used.
Sometimes though, you just have to stand your ground.
Or, well, stand your soil; as the case may be.
Categories: Jonesen', Keeping up with the Joneses
18 January 2015, by gj
By now most people know that the bee population is declining and we need to act swiftly to stop and hopefully reverse it.
But you might think there is little you can do personally to help. That’s not true, you really can make a difference.
1. Give them a home.
Build a Mason Bee House with a few simple tools. Mason bees will populate the house and help your garden at the same time.
Then build a few extra and give them to your family and friends.
2. Have their back.
Read this article on helping the bees. In it there are a number of things you can do to be a part of the solution.
3. Clean up their environment.
Find out if the plants you are buying at your local garden center contain the deadly pesticide known as neonicotinoid that you saw mentioned in the above article. To do this, simply ask the staff who their plant supplier is, then send them an email.
An equaintance of mine did this. The supplier at her center is Bonnie Plants, so she sent them an email. This was their response:
Bonnie Plants does not utilize any form of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides/insecticides (neonicotinoids class includes; acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, nithiazine, thiacloprid, dinotefuran and thiamethoxam) in the greenhouse production of transplants. Neonicotinoids are not contained in any seed nor are they utilized in any stage of the growing process. I do hope this information is helpful to you and alleviates your concern.
Thanks for writing in, and have a good day.
(Since this was a personal email, we removed the people’s names.)
And by all means, stop using products such as Round Up in your yard.
4. Feed them well.
Intersperse your veggie garden with the types of plants bees love. You can call your local cooperative extension and see what plants are best for your area.
Here in Northeast Pa. we find they are attracted to sunflowers and creeping thymus in particular. Look for plants that bloom early to get things started, and for others that have a long blooming season.
If you have any friends that are interested in nature, please pass this on and encourage them to help as well.
To win the battle we need the good guys to outnumber the bad guys. It’s important to the bees, and to our food supply.
Categories: Garden Projects, Keeping up with the Joneses, Preparedness & Green Living
13 January 2015, by gj
Botanical Interests, Baker Creek, and the Seeds of the Month Club share the fact they don’t sell GMO seeds.
The original plan was to post this in a cute Dr. Seuss related lyric, but this is just too important. So let us just say this:
You can’t buy GMO seeds. Not nowhere, not nohow.
Unless you are a farmer, but farmer’s probably aren’t reading this. Or, if you happen to know an unlucky farmer who plants corn down wind of a Monsanto farm, and is selling seeds… but the chances of that are rare. And just in case, many seed companies check their supply, to be doubly safe.
So, why do seed companies say they sell non-GMO seeds if everyone sells only non-GMO?
For precisely the same reason we post this information, because there is still confusion out there. They want to be sure their customers know what they are selling. The problem is though, that this makes some people think that if some companies say they ‘don’t sell GMO’ then other companies must sell GMO.
But that simply isn’t the case.
Even companies owned by Monsanto do not sell GMO seeds. They just don’t.
The other problem is that there is some confusion between GMO seeds, aka Genetically Engineered by someone with at least a PhD., and a hybrid seed, which both man, breeze and bees can create. I doubt I have ever met a bee, let alone a breeze, with a PhD. Hybrids are not GMO’s as the term is currently used. They are simply a natural cross between 2 plants.
Recently I read someone suggest that a graphed plant was a GMO. FYI, that is when the top of one plant is attached to and grows with the bottom of another. Dwarf fruit tress, a dozen of which we have, are a common example. Not GMO’s, and even if they were, which they aren’t, then you wouldn’t be able to buy them.
So again, please pass this on to your fearful seed buying friends. They can relax for now at least, and buy seeds to their heart’s content without a worry of accidentally buying GMO’s.
And to all the seed companies signing the Safe Seed Pledge and sharing the truth about GMO’s, our sunhats are off to you!
Update 1/16/15 Don’t just take my word for it, read this.
How to really hurt Monsanto.
Categories: All About Seeds
10 January 2015, by gj
Okay, okay… for those that know me well, you can stop laughing.
There is never really an end to ordering seeds it seems, but at least the majority of what we intend to grow has been decided. Some will be successful we hope, some will be failures we’re sure.
But for what it is worth, here’s what we will be working on that is new or is another go at it:
1. Amaranth- for both beauty and seeds.
2. Quinoa – likewise.
3. Micro Tom Tomatoes – Indoor pea sized fresh tomatoes year ’round.
4. Stevia – Yeah, it’s about time.
5. Pixie Grape – Year ’round indoor potted grape plant.
6. Papalo -Hoping the second time’s the charm.
7. Hamburg Root Parsley – likewise.
8. Butterbush Hybrid Winter Squash – Tiny squash plant that can be grown in a container. Do we sense a theme?
9. Apollo Hybrid Brokali – no misspelling here.
10. Veronica Romanesco Cauliflower -Green flower heads.
11. Cheddar Cauliflower – Likewise, but yellowish-orange.
12. Kossak Hybrid and Superschmelz Heirloom Kohlrabi – Let’s compare the two largest kohlrabi varieties side by side.
13. Centennial, Beauregard and Georgia Sweet Potatoes – vs. Homegrown slips from local organic sweet taters.
14. Easter Egg Tree – Really an eggplant not a tree, but hey… fun is fun.
15. Celeriac – Likewise #4.
16. Chicory – ibid.
17. Celery, Giant Red – Because, as you can see, we love different colors.
18. Kajari Melon – Interesting variety now available to the US.
19. Jelly Melon Kiwano – Who can pass up a cucumber described as having lime-jello colored juicy flesh?
20. Celtuce – Really, this exists?
21. Calico Popcorn – Growing corn in pots. This should be interesting.
22. Butterfly weed – As a group effort, Gardenaholics Anonymous is going to do their part to help the Monarch butterflies.
And last, but not least:
23. Winter Squash, Lakota – Because we live in an area previously worked by our indigenous peoples, we strive to grow as many of their heirloom plants as we can; its our small sign of respect.
For more information on these seeds, visit:
And wish us luck!
Categories: All About Seeds
10 January 2015, by gj
Now we’re not talking about buying seeds from the seed display your local grocery store might set up, or even buying open pollinated produce like squash or cantaloupe and saving those seeds. Certainly this isn’t about purchasing roots like ginger and horseradish to grow.
No, this post is a wee bit different.
We’ve talked before about buying dry beans that are packaged for soup, and growing those.
This idea holds trues for a lot of edibles. Here are a few to consider:
- Besides soup beans, look into growing lentils, edaname and chick peas aka garbanzo beans from the packaged ones at the store. Be sure they are not processed, but are simply dry beans; otherwise known as seeds.
- Quinoa that isn’t labeled ‘instant’ or ‘seasoned’ is most likely nothing more than seeds.
- Check out herbs such as Coriander, Mustard and Cumin seeds. Here, just be sure to look at the unit price. We buy in bulk, but if you don’t the price of an herb seed may be higher than a pack of seeds per ounce. Other herb seeds, such as Fenugreek, can be found in bulk online. If you intend to use a lot, check out and compare prices.
- Sunflower seeds, often sold for bird food, are likely untreated seeds that will not only make the birds happy, they can please the gardener as well.
- Peanuts outside the shell are nothing more than seeds. Again, you need to find some that are not roasted. A little hard to find, but they’re out there.
- Pumpkin seeds and the like are usually found roasted as well. If your store has plain, unroasted seeds, you have a gold mine at your fingertips.
- Amaranth is also sold as a grain and usually untreated. Again compare prices, but you are likely going to be able to eat your amaranth and grow it too.
One other thing to keep in mind is that these seeds packed for consumption may be older than what the seed supply stores sell. For the most part, that doesn’t matter.
When you’re at the market, keep your eyes open for things you may just be able to grow. In the picture above, we have germinated coriander seeds sold in the spice section of the market, and red quinoa sold where the rice is carried. The quinoa was what was left in the bag my husband was tossing out.
Not bad, eh?
Categories: All About Seeds
4 January 2015, by gj
America really is the Melting Pot, and nobody knows this better than veggie gardeners.
While many are familiar with numerous Asian veggies as well as those of Europe and our Indigenous peoples, less avail themselves of what the people of India have to offer. Of course, growing conditions are always a consideration. Still there are wonderful flavors to be had by trying some of what this culture enjoys.
Most people unfamiliar with Indian cooking think first of curry, a combination of ingredients often found in Indian dishes. One less familiar ingredient is Fenugreek, also known as mathi, which is a staple in Indian cuisine.
You can use both the leaves, which have a very mild maple taste, and the seeds. The plant has numerous health benefits, find some of those here.
What we enjoyed most was the way it combines its flavor to those in many of the dishes we have tried. Our favorite is Mathi Matter, a combination of cashew butter and peas in a cream sauce with fenugreek and spices. It may sound a bit odd, until you taste it. It is now Mandolin’s favorite way to eat peas.
To grow fenugreek, simply scatter the seeds on soil when the weather is warm. You can presoak them to speed up germination. Cover lightly with more soil, and keep watered. Before too long the sprouts will emerge, and you can begin to harvest.
It can be eaten as a sprout, or allowed to grow larger to harvest the leaves. Thin the sprouts to allow 6 ” for the plants if you are going to continue to grow them. The picture above shows both stages. As a bonus, the plant sprouts pretty little white flowers, the seeds of which are also edible as a tea or spice.
An intercultural experience in your backyard garden?
Botanical name: Trigonella foenum-graecum
Spacing: 6-8″ for larger plants
Harvest: Sprouts, leaves and seeds
Conditions: Prefers warmth, sun and a well drained soil. No additional fertilizer needed in good soil.
Height: 1-2 ft.
You Can Grow that! is a collaborative effort on the part of a number of gardeners around the world. Each month they write a post specifically to help and encourage everyone to grow something. Find more posts by clicking on the logo above.
Categories: Herbs, You Can Grow That!